(Editor’s note: The Douglas County Republican Party’s response to this guest column is available here.)
The Douglas County Republican Party’s strategy for the Nov. 7 school board election was a novel one: We refuse to support the three solid Republican, eminently electable school board candidates because they favor the Douglas County School Board (DCSB) tax and debt measures (5A and 5B) on the November 7 ballot. Instead, the Party focused solely on promoting the only candidate standing against the school funding measures, Dave DiCarlo. The Party’s favoritism amounted to cancelling the other three conservative Republican candidates, just as the left notoriously cancels all conservative voices.
They spent $7,000 of the Party’s meager funds on a campaign mailer promoting only DiCarlo. They listed only DiCarlo’s name on the Douglas County Republicans website under “school board candidates.” Their Get Out the Vote phone script touted only DiCarlo, never mentioning the other three Republicans. For weeks prior to the election, a tsunami of operatives swarmed the numerous Douglas County Republican and conservative Facebook pages, boosting the sole “endorsed” candidate, while undermining and defaming the three well-qualified pro-bond/mill levy candidates.
The Party violated its own main purpose as enshrined in the Douglas County Republican Central Committee bylaws, Article II Section II: “The primary purpose of this organization shall be to elect Republican candidates to office….” Not that the Party shall elect only candidates who oppose school funding. Not that the Party shall elect only the candidates they like. Not that they shall elect candidates based on some purity test. They also violated the most obvious rule of politics: If you don’t vote for your Party’s candidates, you’re helping the other side win.
So now that every one of the Republican school board candidates lost massively in the Nov. 7 election and the prospects for keeping the current conservative Board majority in the next election–two years away–are looking grim, the Party officers are denying that their systematic defaming and undermining three of their own candidates had anything to do with the debacle in DougCo. Party Chair Steve Peck immediately issued a press release that should be taught as a masterpiece of spin: “…due to a split vote of a spoiler candidate in the DCSD District C race, GOP-endorsed candidate David DiCarlo did not emerge victorious. Based on the preliminary results, a majority of voters were clearly seeking a conservative representative in this district, and that was Mr. DiCarlo, who earned more than 75 percent support from the party in May 2023. Our party attempted to build meaningful bridges to bring about success in these races, but those attempts were rejected. I hope Republicans learn an important lesson from this cycle that ignoring and shunning the Republican Party will always be a recipe for disaster.”
The spin has me dizzy here. First, DiCarlo was the actual spoiler candidate, not his Republican opponent Jason Page, who became the incumbent when the DCSB chose him to fill a vacancy on the Board several months before the election. DiCarlo didn’t even make it to the final round. When Page became the incumbent DiCarlo should have gracefully exited the field. Then the Republicans could have won at least one seat. Page was a well-qualified candidate, having served on the DCSD Long Range Planning Board and on a charter school board as well.
Peck’s claim that the majority of voters “were clearly seeking” DiCarlo was refuted by the actual voters. DiCarlo was the biggest loser of the four Republicans, scoring only 23.3 percent of the vote to Page’s 28.9. Page had over 6,000 more votes than DiCarlo!
Peck scolds the three other Republican candidates that “ignoring and shunning the Republican Party will always be a recipe for disaster.” That’s rich. The Party itself was the shunner of its own highly electable candidates, and rather than trying “to build meaningful bridges to bring about success in these races” Vice Chair Hairfield led a howling pack of DiCarlo supporters, consistently undermining the other three for the mortal sin of being insufficiently conservative.
DiCarlo himself prepared the ground for his anti-tax candidacy by proposing a motion to the Executive Committee (43 voting district captains and five officers) that the Party oppose any tax increase. Thus the stage was set for the Party to rig the endorsement process to favor only DiCarlo and discriminate against the three pro-school-funding candidates – the “BEST DCSD” slate. DiCarlo is known among long-time Party-goers for his bluster and non-negotiable style which some mistake for principled boldness. Typical: his campaign pledge to “burn it all down” – meaning the public school system. And yet the DougCo GOP went along with this champion of destruction.
They never endorsed Page. Jones’ endorsement vote was beset by various delaying ploys, until Vice Chair Hairfield called him and said he would never get an endorsement. The Party did vote to endorse Maria Sumnicht because she said she was researching 5A and 5B and hadn’t decided her position. Later, she signed on to the slate, and joined Page and Jones in supporting the school funding measures.
Then she was viciously attacked by Steve Collier, Highlands Ranch precinct leader and charter lieutenant of former Senator behind-the-scenes puppet master Ted Harvey’s tribe. Collier wrote this ugly email to the 40-plus voting members of the Executive Committee:
“Because this candidate was endorsed under the false pretense of supporting the party’s formal position taken earlier this Spring of being in opposition to tax increases in 2023, it is incumbent upon this body to correct this previous error of endorsement by the Victory Committee and immediately take up as a new business item at the next Executive Committee meeting to vote to rescind this endorsement. I do not fault the work of the Victory Committee on this as they were seemingly misled. (Italics in original email.) The ‘Best DCSD’ slate, unfortunately, has taken a position within our county that is counter to the desires of the electorate, and more important, tax paying citizens in general.”
Ms. Sumnicht, a relative newcomer to Douglas County running from the Parker area, is a long-time Republican with an impressive career in cyber and school security in New York and California. A political newbie, she was so shocked and upset when Collier called her a liar that she rescinded her endorsement herself. Collier even proved himself an extremely incompetent prognosticator when the 5A school tax won voter approval. After Ed Hairfield called Andy Jones to inform him there would be no endorsement, that candidate also told the Executive Committee: never mind.
All along, former State Senator Ted Harvey maneuvered behind the scenes, setting up the votes to approve the no-taxes ultimatum that engineered the Party’s rejection of Page, Jones, and Sumnicht. Harvey also objected to a vote to approve Andy Jones’ endorsement, insisting 10 days’ notice must be given, although DiCarlo’s anti-tax motion and others were approved on the spot. In another meeting, Harvey stood up and demanded that DiCarlo’s name and only his name appear on the DougCo Republicans website as a Republican candidate. And so it was written, and so it was done. Harvey clearly relishes his role as official Party Svengali.
There’s no telling how many right-leaning unaffiliateds and actual registered Republicans went to the website to learn which candidates were Republicans because names on the ballot have no R or D in this “non-partisan” race. But they saw only DiCarlo’s name. There’s no telling how many potential Republican voters either voted for the “unaffiliated” – actually left-wing wokesters – instead of the Republican candidates. What is certain – if DiCarlo had dropped out of the race and not split the Republican vote in that District, incumbent Page would have been elected by more than 6,000 votes over his leftist rival.
In the smoking wreckage of the catastrophic loss of all three school board seats, the Party and especially the officers have taken zero responsibility for their role in the debacle. In fact, all over social media Vice Chair Hairfield is blaming the victims, claiming that Jones and Sumnicht “refused the Party’s help.” They did nothing of the kind. The Party harassed them until they just gave up trying for their support in one of the reddest counties in the state, with an electorate of 95,000 registered Republicans, only 50,000 registered Democrats and 125,00 unaffiliated voters.
In prioritizing their no taxes “principle” above and beyond the vastly more critical task of electing Republicans, the Party showed that an obsession with a single divisive issue leads to disaster. They squandered all their ethical and political capital on a losing candidate and a losing position on 5A. Now the Douglas County school board has four Republicans to three on the left. The Party seems not to realize that only fellow Republicans will advance their precious conservative values; that’s why we must elect Republicans! Making the perfect the enemy of the good is an error in logic. Even though the DCSB conservatives are not yet outnumbered, the stubborn obliviousness of the Party foretells more calamity.
They can continue to obsess over their destructive purity tests or keep their eyes on the prize: retaining our DCSB Republican majority. We’ll find out at the next school board election if their cluelessness results in the takeover of a new radical left board that will return harmful woke indoctrination to the county’s children with a vengeance.
Joy Overbeck is a Douglas County based journalist whose work has appeared at Complete Colorado, Townhall.com, American Thinker, The Washington Times, The Federalist, and elsewhere. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter (X) @joyoverbeck1.
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